Assessments of the current state of the nation are grim as Americans have begun to choose who will vie to be the country's next president. 75% of Americans think the country is off on the wrong track - matching the highest number ever recorded in the CBS News/New York Times Poll - and approval of President Bush remains low.
Concern about the direction of the country is accompanied by growing alarm about the condition of the economy - now the country's most important problem. Perceptions of the condition of the national economy continue to drop, and most Americans think the worst is yet to come.
Three in four Americans think the country is off on the wrong track, matching the highest number recorded in the twenty-five years since CBS News began asking the question. Only 19% say it is headed in the right direction, matching the all-time low reached last June.
Worries about the direction of the country coincide with a low job approval rating for the president. 29% of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling his job as president. Approval has hovered around 30% for the past year.
What approval is left of the president is fueled mainly by members of the president's own party. 66% of Republicans still approve of how he is handling his job, while nearly six in 10 Independents and nearly nine in 10 Democrats disapprove.
The Economy: Growing Concerns
For the first time in over two years the economy and jobs is the most important problem facing the country today - edging out the war in Iraq. 23% name it - up eleven points in just one month.
61% say the condition of the economy is bad - including nearly one in five that say it is in very bad shape. 38% describe the economy as good - though only 3% say it is very good. In January 2007 a majority of Americans said the economy was at least in fairly good condition.
Pessimism about the economy's future is on the rise. 62%, the highest percentage since 1990, think the economy is getting worse, not better.
Read The Complete CBS News/NY Times Poll On The Republican Race
The Democratic Race
The Economy And The Direction Of The Country
The War In Iraq
Nearly six in 10 Americans say the war in Iraq is going badly - including 30% who say it is going very badly - while another 38% say it is going at least somewhat well. These numbers have changed little since last month, though they are an improvement from a year ago.
Meanwhile, public opinion on the effectiveness of the troop surge that began last spring continues to improve. 40% now say it has made the situation better there, a number that has increased steadily since July.
Looking to the future of U.S. troop commitment in Iraq, half of all Americans want most U.S. troops out of Iraq within the next year, and only about one in five is willing to see large numbers of American troops remain in Iraq for longer than two years.
Looking back, 58% of Americans believe the U.S. made the wrong decision going to war in Iraq.
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1178 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone January 9-12, 2008. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. An oversample of African Americans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 185 interviews among this group and 141 African American Democratic primary voters. The results were then weighted in proportion to the racial composition of the adult population in the U.S. Census. The margin of error for African Americans overall is plus or minus 7 percentage points, and plus or minus 8 points for African American Democratic primary voters.